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How federal home heating funding could pull people out of 'energy poverty'


An environmental advocacy group in Halifax says the federal government’s announcement of money to help homeowners with oil tanks switch to cheaper, greener options is a positive step forward.

Thomas Arnason McNeil, a climate policy coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), says, by some estimates, up to 40 per cent of Atlantic Canadians live in “energy poverty.”

“That’s when you spend as much as six per cent of your income just on home heating,” says Arnason McNeil. "The bottom line is that low-income Atlantic Canadians should not be paying the cost of the energy transition.”

On Thursday, the federal government announced it will spend $250 million over four years to help Canadians with home heating, with nearly half the money targeted for Atlantic Canada.

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says about $120 million of the funding will go to the four Atlantic provinces -- where the federal government estimates more than 305,000 homes still rely on oil for heat.

The government says, with a focus on lower-income households, the funding will help homeowners using heating oil move to greener sources such as electric heat pumps.

However, some people in the heat pump industry say the change will come at a significant cost -- regardless of who is footing the bill.

“I wouldn't say you'd be anything less than five figures, low tens anywhere up to $20,000, depending on the system and depending on the home,” said Brett Fletcher with Ready Refrigeration, a company that installs heat pumps.

He says many people were making the move away from oil, even before the announcement.

“Some weeks, earlier on in the summer, we couldn't even keep up with the amount of oil tanks and furnaces we were removing and transitioning into electric heat pumps,” said Fletcher.

The federal government says the funding is to be allocated to the provinces and territories, which can then use it to extend or expand current energy efficiency programs.

Arnason McNeil says the EAC would like to see the expansion of those programs “to include deeper energy efficiency upgrades."

With files from the Canadian Press Top Stories

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